Back in 1970, I was in 2nd grade. As a kid, you are supposed to be fearless of anything and everything. Life was about innocence. It should not be about worrying if you are going to be next to disappear. But for me and many others, it was.
I shared my story last year with hopes of raising awareness for those still missing in our area and how life just doesn't stop for those still hoping and waiting for thier loved ones to return. I surpassed my goal... and hoping to do it once again!
For those of you who knew or perhaps don’t know, Sheila Allen was a 16-year-old student at Colonie Central High School when she was kidnapped and murdered. I remember it as if it was yesterday. The memories are so clear. As I said, I was in the 2nd grade and I remember going to the bus stop and there was a book and a shoe and what was like a backpack on the ground. Mr. Allen was walking up the street as the bus was there to get us. I remember all of the oddness that affected Colonie Village that day. At school end the bus pulled down our street, which was filled with police cars. The helicopters over-head were all around us. I remember my mom telling me something happened to Sheila.
I share Sheila's story often, to friends, my kids, etc. as I truly believe that all of us who grew up on the lower half of Rapple Drive will always remember Sheila and are still always looking over our shoulders.
I tried very hard not to raise my daughters with the same fears I have lived with for the past 43 years, but it is very hard not to. Disappearances are more prevalent these days, sometimes by total strangers, thinking it would be fun after a night of drinking to do something to the next girl they see, as was the case for Sheila. Or even those that are taken by family or acquaintances. Do you ever look in the sad eyes of a child perhaps at a store and wonder if they are one of the kids on the posters that we just walk by?
I truly thought it wouldn’t occur again in our area but then we had the disappearance of Karen Wilson – 1985 , Suzanne Lyell - 1998, Craig Frear- 2004 just to name a few. Every now and then a news story will pop up to remind us that yes they are still missing and our law enforcement is still looking for them, giving the family some sense of hope. And now we hold vigil for 24 year old Rachael Mattice from Wells NY
I passed by the 2014 Ride for Missing Children Riders last year and said… I want to do that. I want to raise awareness to others that someone’s daughter, son, sister, brother, etc matters. I want people to look at the pictures that they see posted on Facebook or tacked to the wall in our stores as they matter and they could be standing right next to you!
For Glenn and most of us, we have never forgotten. We grew up and it grew with us. Our lives went on, we have raised our own children with the fears we have carried with us all of our lives. We fear the darkness, the need to be self-aware at all times on how we parented our children. For myself, I feel I did a decent job raising my children with the awareness but am sure that on many occasions I instilled more fear then needed to be. It’s hard to outsource our fears, but we try hard, as is still persists. No matter what we do, how much time passed, how we try to eliminate it, it’s still there.
Think of all those postings we pass by on any given day and then think of the families who are waiting for that glimmer of hope that their son or daughter will come home. I think about them as I write this now. Knowing what impact Sheila’s disappearance has done to me for the past 43 years, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what a family member goes through.
So we look now for heightened awareness and education. The goals of The Ride for Missing Children remain the same as when it began: • To honor all of America’s missing and exploited children • To promote awareness of the plight of all missing and exploited children, and the need for child safety education • To raise funds to support the poster distribution for missing children and mission of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children-NY. • To provide personal and online safety education programs from the new National Center for Missing & Exploited Children—NY/Saratoga Office
It’s not just a Bike Ride. I will ride 100-miles in one day, as one long unified team of Riders, riding 2 x 2 escorted by The New York State Police and local law enforcement of the jurisdictions through which we ride. The Ride will stop at schools along the way for educational Rest Stops, and we “Ride-By” other schools along our route.
At each school we visit, we bring our message of child safety and abduction prevention. Before the Ride we reach out to schools “beyond our borders” with our educational and awareness programs.
Our bicycles are the “vehicles” we use to make our journey, however they merely provide us with a visible means to spread our message about the plight of missing and exploited children and to educate and communicate to those we ride by, and to those that we visit, on child safety education.
I now ask you to join me and help me raise at least $300.00 to purchase the posters we see of “too many” missing children.
The Ride for Missing Children is not about personal challenge or achievement – it is about our mission “to make our children safer …one child at a time”.